Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

display of knowledge in frame copy

Roger and I used to talk about art in terms of levels of sophistication. For instance, no one masters an instrument the first time they pick one up. There are layers of learning necessary before the musician “knows” how to play. The “knowing” has little to do with the accumulation of information and everything to do with giving over to what the body learns. Finally, it is a letting go (of the mind) into an undefended sharing. Flow. It has nothing to do with knowing and everything to do with availability. This ‘availability to experience’ is what we called sophistication.

Both the artist and the audience pass through layers of greater sophistication. The artist wants greater and greater challenges. The audience wants greater and greater challenges, that is, they want to participate in something that demands more from them. It requires that both artist and audience show up, open, give over. Union is the ultimate purpose of art. Participation in something greater than your self. That is how art informs and transforms.

And then, there is the flip side, the anti-art. You can feel it. The absence of the genuine experience. The demonstration of accumulated knowledge. I cringe when a curator launches a three-masted-ship-of-study that tells me what the art is about, what the artist felt, and what I should see and feel. When the actor attempts to control what I see, when the art is so conceptual that it precludes me or anyone save the artist from entering the conversation, when the  knowledge priest stands between me and my god…you’ll know the levels of sophistication have left the building when the conversation is one way, judged, controlled.

Kerri calls this the blah-blah. When a real moment is disrupted by an agenda, when the flow is dammed by an unnecessary display of knowledge. And, the kicker is, we are all guilty of it. I am. It is a necessary step in climbing the ladder of sophistication, slipping back down the ladder of sophistication. To confuse technique with art. To garble the necessity of the open heart with  the realm of the intellectually abstract.  To give a standing ovation to something that put you to sleep. To try to control what the other person sees or thinks or feels; a fool’s errand. The great artist trap. The great life trap.

And, the best you can do (truly, the best thing), is to catch yourself in the moment of blah-blah, laugh at yourself lost in the trap, pull out the ladder, and begin again to climb toward simplicity.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AN UNNECESSARY DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

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Hope [on KS Friday]

hope song box copy

Somewhere in my reading I came across this notion: discontent is the source of all creativity. Hope must be like that, too. Yearning. Expectation. Desire. To want something or someone who is not there. It is sweet and bitter.

Anyone who tells you that life cannot be simple and complex at the same time has not loved or aspired to dream. Don’t believe them. The simple desire to know never leads to a single answer but it does open greater and greater vistas. Ask a physicist. Or a mystic. Or someone in love.

Particle or wave?

Hope maybe despair re-imagined. It may be a left hand path calling. A dream that seems too big to consider. For a moment today, listen to Hope. Pull up the anchor and follow the wind. Listen. Close your eyes and see where Hope might take you.

 

HOPE on the album THIS SEASON available on iTunes, CDBaby. CD’s available at Kerri’s store.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOPE

 

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hope/this season ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

Show Up [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Sometimes something is so obvious it actually needs to be said. The real difficulty in this life is not arriving at the finish line but showing up to the starting line. This phrase, a quote from our Life Below Zero addiction, encapsulates the essence and great challenge of many of my coaching clients – of most people. There is often a glass wall between yearning and action. I wonder how many times in my life I’ve offered this phrase: the actions you need to take are never the problem; the challenge is the story you wrap around the actions.

It comes down to this, yet another simplicity: starting brings change. Start the race and you will never be the same. Start the race and there’s no guarantee what you will learn or find. You may win or lose or simply not finish. You might learn that you are in the wrong race or that you care nothing for races. But mostly, there is this. If you take another look at the quote you’ll discover the crux of the matter is not about lines, it is never really about beginnings or endings. It’s about showing up. It’s about taking action on the thing that you most yearn to do. Or be. It’s about showing up, being seen. Starting requires a relinquishing of control.

Damn! There’s so much complexity in simplicity!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SHOWING UP

 

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See Simply [on DR Thursday]

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Kerri’s morsel choice often surprises me but none more than this week. She took a close up photo of my painting We Watch The Setting Sun, flipped it over, made two copies, left one untouched and manipulated the other. “I want to use both!” she announced with THAT look in her eyes. “It reminds me of a hillside in the fall.”

I write this often, perhaps too often, but it matters: through the morsels I am discovering simplicity.  In her Autumn Hillside set I see the freedom of my brushstrokes. I see the collision of thick paint and thin washes. I see simple color that, in its movement, serves as a suggestion. Less is more. Nothing else is needed. I understand Mark Rothko. I appreciate Ad Reinhardt.  I am seeing their work through new eyes.

New eyes. Could there be a greater gift for an artist, for someone who has worked his entire life at ‘seeing?’

“Don’t you love it?” Kerri asked of the morsels. I smiled. Yes. I love it.

 

FALL50%OFFSALE copyseptember 1 – 16

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AUTUMN HILLSIDE

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

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autumn hillside/autumn hillside night ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

KS Friday

andgoodnightjacket copy 2“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~Pablo Picasso

Every artist knows that technique is necessary but artistry is not the application of technique. Artistry is transcending technique. Technique is tangible. It is possible to practice scales and study color theory. It is possible to grasp that different brushes do different things. There are bottom lines in technique, reductions and rules and complications.

Artistry is intangible. It is flow. It is expansive. It is simplicity and simplicity is so hard to achieve. It is one of those paradoxes I love to write about, the zones where truth bubbles precisely because it cannot be contained.

The first night we met Kerri played her piano for me. I will never forget it. This slight woman stepped up to her piano (she rarely sits when playing) and all reality shifted. She grew. She filled the room. I swear I saw her send an energy-root into the earth and she opened. What came through was…enormous. What came through was simple.

This lullaby, Kerri’s original piece, I Will Hold You (Forever & Ever) from her album AND GOODNIGHT, could certainly be played by a technician and you would appreciate it. Now, for your KS Friday from the melange, listen to what an artist can do. Sit back and give over to the simplicity.

I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER & EVER) from AND GOODNIGHT (track 25) iTunes

also available on CDBaby

 

And because she couldn’t resist designing with this title for babies or weddings or anyone you love, I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER & EVER) products.

 

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forever and ever FRAMED ART PRINT copy

forever and ever SQ PILLOW copy   forever and ever RECT PILLOW copy

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‘forever and ever’ leggings

forever and ever MUG copy

 

read kerri’s blog post about I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER & EVER)

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kerrianddavid.com

 

i will hold you (forever & ever), and goodnight ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

Think “And”

a second version, a second point of view of my painting Shared Fatherhood

I suppose it is the great trap in human nature to define life through oppositions. Was your experience good or bad? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you your brother’s keeper or is it every man for himself? Oppositions provide the illusion that there is a right way or a wrong way, that any issue can be reduced to a simplicity, a singular path. One way. Oppositions are great language devices for dictators and the righteous. They remove the grey tones and blunt the grey matter. With an opposition, us or them, “god” can be exclusively on your side (a small god, indeed) which self-grants permission for all manner of abuses enacted by “us” on “them.” The problematic word when employing oppositions is “or.”

“And” is a much more useful (and honest) term to employ when dancing with oppositions. Can you be your brother’s keeper AND take care of yourself? Certainly. Can you survive entirely by yourself without the participation of your brothers and sisters? Certainly not. No one lives in a vacuum; “or” is the great creator of illusory vacuums. “And” guarantees a conversation and perhaps a host of useful, challenging and robust perspectives. Both/And is always more functional than Either/Or.

AND the first version of Shared Fatherhood

The snag in “Or” is that there is very little truth in any reduction that ultimately lands on just One. This or that. All life is movement and all movement stops in One. Creative tension requires at least two points and a desire for someplace place to go. There is no single arrival station in real life. There is no achievement that stops all the presses. Every answer inspires new questions. Each question opens doors to multiple possibilities. Agreement is a fluid target at best and must be nurtured. Compromise is never an end state; it is a relationship imperative. Life is never found in the static “or.”

Do an experiment: go to the grocery store, choose any item and ask yourself how many people it took to bring your chosen item to the shelf at that moment. If you are not astounded by the complexity of participation, how dependent we are on actions of others, your imagination has most certainly failed you. Skip, entrepreneur extraordinaire and mentor to entrepreneurs taught me that a business cannot succeed until it serves its customer’s customer. Note the word “serves.” Businesses serve. Not simply a customer but the complexity of a customer’s customer. Entrepreneurism is a service to the creative genius of a community and multitudes of communities beyond.

Entrepreneurism, like artistry, ….even, yes, like governance…like all things vital, moving, complex and growing, live in service according to the good graces of AND. Anything else is a mirage.

 

 

 

Have A Conversation

my quick sketches of two of the stained glass window panels

my quick sketches of two of the stained glass window panels

Yesterday I learned that my conversation with the stained glass window was only on hiatus. Several months ago we simply stopped talking. In the silence I thought the conversation was complete. For almost two years we had a weekly chat. I took lots of notes.

I recognize that one is not supposed to have chats with windows – at least not admit to it. Master Marsh teased me saying, “There’s help for things like this.” I’ve decided that my conversation with the window is more ordinary than odd: plenty of people around the world talk to statues. Most of us have had silent reckoning with the sky. I’ve witnessed mechanics talking to their tools and bakers wooing their dough. Who hasn’t cursed the object of a home fix-it job-gone-wrong (plumbing regularly gets a tongue lashing from me!) or praised a project done well? Traffic gets a regular talking to. In this region, at this time of year, more than a few brides make deals with the weather. A soul in exchange for sunshine.

Who hasn’t, in a moment of turmoil, looked inside themselves and asked for help? Who hasn’t uttered a quiet thank you or asked for guidance or made an appeal? Call it prayer, meditation, epiphany, catharsis, intuition, gut instinct, reading the signs, hearing the call, or communing with nature, it’s a conversation.

I’m not the only artist – or scientist for that matter – that, in moments of flow, feels as if something bigger is coming through. In that sense, all of my paintings might serve as the record of a conversation with something bigger. Writers often speak about having the experience of the characters writing themselves, of following rather than creating. Following, surrendering, allowing, listening, responding, getting out of the way. Play the chords long enough and you no longer need to think about them. In the land beyond thinking about it, music becomes possible. It’s a conversation.

Sitting on the chancel, listening to Kerri play, I stared as I often do at the morning light pouring through the colored glass. I studied the symbols. Birth and death. Tree of knowledge, Tree of Everlasting Life. The Grail standing between two flames. It’s a repetition in symbol of the same idea. Born into an experience of duality and distinctions, a world fighting over its differences, we have the opportunity to walk the middle path, the unity consciousness, the “something bigger.” “Between the two, one,” I the heard the window whisper. “It’s simple, really.”

a quick sketch of all three panels: birth, death, and the middle way.

a quick sketch of all three panels: birth, death, and the middle way.

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